Georgia to end conscription?

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According to a report by RIA Novosti, Georgia might abolish conscription by 2009. "After 2009, the Defense Ministry will abandon conscription, and the military will shift to a contract basis," Nodar Kharshiladze, head of the ministry's planning and defense policy department told a defense conference. He said a network of reservist battalions would be set up by that time. "All reservists will take a single combat training course in 2007 and a refresher course in military professions in 2008. Distinguished leaders will undergo 10-day training for platoon commanders," the official said.

A few days later, Georgia denied any talks about a possible missile defense base in the country.

Georgia has denied being involved in any talks or discussions on basing elements of a U.S. missile shield system on its soil, the country's foreign minister said Friday. Gela Bezhuashvili said in an interview with British daily The Financial Times Wednesday that Georgia is prepared to consider hosting components of an American missile defense system. "If [the US] came and told us that they wanted to, we would certainly be willing to talk about it," he was quoted as saying.

Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, said earlier the U.S. would like to deploy a forward-based radar in the Caucasus to facilitate its ability to track missiles originating from Iran.

In his interview, minister Bezhuashvili said the Americans have not formally requested talks with Georgia, but the majority of the country's population supports NATO membership. "Public support for NATO membership stands at 84 per cent, we have recently doubled our troops in Iraq - I do not think it would be a problem," he said. But he said that while relations with the U.S. are improving, further tension was expected in relations with Russia. "I think the relationship will actually deteriorate in the future. The "dynamics in all of this" were "not very promising," he said.

Russia fears that Georgia's NATO membership will seriously worsen relations between Moscow and Tbilisi, a senior Foreign Ministry official said last week. As well as being uneasy about the opening of NATO bases on the territory of Russia's former Soviet allies in the Baltic region and Central Asia, Moscow strongly opposes efforts by Georgia and Ukraine to join the alliance, saying the prospect threatens its security and will unleash a new arms race.

Sources:RIA Novosti, 26 April 2007, 4 May 2007

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